In October 2019 I found myself lost, living with my ex, tormented by his lingering cologne but never his presence; he was like a ghost I couldn't banish. I needed to do something to ease the ache and pass the time. Hiking wasn't new to me, in fact, I was the quintessential outdoor enthusiast, tracking miles and elevation gain everywhere I went. But during that time in my life, I didn't just want to hike alone. Maybe because it had been a long time since I hiked alone after being codependent on my ex. Maybe I was just looking for connection. It didn't really matter what the reason was, I just knew that I wanted to be part of something that could bring comfort. So, in October of 2019, I created a Meetup Group: Healing with Hiking, and in less than a month that group expanded to over 400 members, and what it told me was that people were hurting and looking for connection.
Turning of the Calendar
The hikes that ensued were lovely. The people who joined were open and thoughtful and helped to hold safe space for each other. Organically, we would follow up our hikes with coffee and hours of continued chatting. I couldn't have asked for a better outcome, but then the calendar turned to March 2020 and everything changed.
Even when the world reopened, the number of participating hikers dwindled. People were nervous and interestingly, less accepting of the way in which I ran the group. When it started, I held sunrise and sunset hikes because it was important to me that we be isolated from crowds. In part this decision was based on practicality because the parking situation at most trailheads is insufficient and by 7 am in Colorado, there aren't any options for parking. The other reason I opted for sunrise and sunset hikes was because we were more likely to witness fauna in organic experiences, to hear the gentle whisper of the trees as the breeze would blow through leaves, and this was important to me as an aspect of healing with nature. But after the onslaught of COVID, demands for changing my structure so people could participate went against the strategy and purpose of what I was doing. It would make it much harder to include somatic elements that I led with, space for meditation, and again, no guaranteed parking.
Though I recognized that people still needed connection and healing, I also recognized that people expected their demands to be met, because we had awoken in a new era. One where acknowledging mental health and wellbeing was going to be more openly received, but also one where people were going to feel more entitled to declaring what their needs are, and not willing to settle for less than that. There is work still to be done here, for me and for the collective. But right now, I'm only here to talk about Healing with Hiking. I worried that changing the structure of the group would mean losing the integrity of its purpose. With fewer people attending, and my inability to justify making certain changes, I decided to close the Meetup group and turn Healing with Hiking into an offer available to my coaching clients. This decision was hard, especially knowing how helpful it was to those of us in the early days, but it was necessary, and now it has become necessary to bring it to a close indefinitely.
Healing with Hiking began out of the desire to merge my need for connection with my expertise in ecotherapy and somatic experiencing. I wanted to simultaneously be someone who could bring specific healing tools to others while also engaging in the practices as a participant. I still believe in the healing nature of our natural environment. I still believe that we are, as Deepak Chopra says, all karmically connected. I still find myself on hikes in the woods, dipping my feet in streams of water, and taking solace in the way the earth holds me and absorbs my pain. Mother Nature is beautiful in that way, and she has consistently been the most nurturing mother figure in my life. I still want others to experience this for themselves.
It's hard to bring something to a close, especially something that you care so deeply about. And yet, sometimes it's necessary - most times, it's required. Though it's sad for me to say goodbye to the group and the offering as a coach, I recognize that it can still stand as a movement. Healing with Hiking can still serve as a tool for connection and you can bet I'll still participate; I just don't think I'm the one to lead people through it any longer.
I urge you, Soul Family, to continue to find healing in the trees, in the lakes, on the sand dunes, and in the literal and metaphorical caves that we explore. We're all still doing it together. We're all still #healingwithhiking.
Love and Light,